US and Canada seafood buyers will find it hard to source crab over the next year because of the recent closures of Alaska's king and snow crab fisheries, but it appears consumers, struggling with runaway inflation, wouldn't even be willing to buy the seafood delicacy if it were available.
Ongoing economic uncertainty and fears of an approaching recession have created "the perfect tsunami to end up with prices crashing and dropping," Osborne Burke, general manager of Victoria Co-op Fisheries in Nova Scotia, told IntraFish.
With inflation at a 40-year-high, consumers are hitting a wall when it comes to seafood purchasing.
To make matters worse for Canada snow crab suppliers, there is plenty of Canadian snow crab around, which is driving down prices further. In March, Canada's Fisheries Minister bumped the country's total allowable catch by 22 percent from the previous year to 50,470 metric tons.
Since the spring of 2022, Canada snow crab prices have plummeted from 2021 highs of $16.50 (€16.37) per 5-8 ounce section to somewhere between $7.00 (€6.95) and $8.00 (€7.94) currently, Burke said.
"Everybody’s going to eat dinner, but they're not in a rush to have luxury dinners," Burke said. "There are going to be challenges going into this next season, and there is still a lot of high-priced inventory around."
That's a stark contrast to 2021, which brought with it record-high prices to the snow crab fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, with the overall fishery valued at CAD 612 million ($451 million/€448 million) and CAD 310 million ($229 million/€227 million) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, according to data released to CBC News by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
In the commercial Dungeness crab fishery in Southeast Alaska this year, prices also plummeted from 2021 highs, with processors paying around $2.79 per pound (€2.86) compared to last year’s $4.21 per pound (€4.32), according to the local news site Alaska Public Media.
Other crab suppliers say the fact that this is the second year Alaska has closed its red king crab fishery has prepared to deal with the lost supply.
"It looks like we’re just going to be out of king crab," David Lancaster, CEO of Massachusetts-based Stavis Seafood, told IntraFish when asked how his company would handle the Alaska inventory gap.
Last year, Stavis stopped sourcing king crab from Russia, instead using other species such as Dungeness crab from the United States and Canada.
This year Lancaster said the company is once again looking to Dungeness crab from Alaska and Oregon as an alternative for US consumers, and will also rely on Eastern Canada for its supply of snow crab.
"There is demand for the product," he said of crab overall for US consumers, adding the company will continue to look at alternatives for Alaska and Russia crab to ensure it can survive these types of closures, even with demand not as high as last year.
"This is a little bit more of a difficult time than during the pandemic," Stavis's Lancaster said of consumer's moods around crab and other seafood items that are viewed as luxury buys. "People still had money then and now they have less."